I stood in my garage, this morning, keys in hand. I held two mismatched gardening gloves; about to climb into my vehicle to head off to the nearest home improvement store. I thought of the rows of cute gardening gloves ready for me to purchase. Maybe a set of knee pads? And cute Crocs to fit the part.
And caught myself. Why did I need to spend money to get motivated?
This is the question the hubs ALWAYS throws at me when I tell him of my new projects. To motivate myself to get fit I wanted a treadmill. With new Brooks running shoes. And the super cute Adidas shorts that would wick moisture away from my legs as I jogged.
This has been a long-standing argument between us; for years. Like twelve.
Soon after I birthed my middle son the hubs had bought me a gym membership. Of my three pregnancies; I gained the most with this son. The expensive gym membership expired two years later. Total amount of times I went? Two. Why? Because whenever I left my toddler and infant son with the babysitting service offered; they always got sick.
So I hit the button to automatically close my garage door. I grabbed the mismatched gloves; thrown on the garage table and headed outside. I snatched an old chlorine pool bucket, a spade and a sieve; made for me by my father-in-law.
The sieve has sat by my garage door for almost six months. In November, last year, I grew tired of looking at my overgrown begonias in my front entry. Much to my husband and neighbor’s surprise, I dug all of the plants out; leaving my plantars bare. I had wanted to plant tulips and other bulbous plants to hibernate through the winter and emerge in the spring. Upon sharing this with my father-in-law, I was shocked when he created a sieve for me to sift my clumpy dirt. I always admire his garden. He thought it would motivate me to create one of my own.
And it sat next to my garage entryway. I guiltily stared at it as I entered and left our home. Today, I determined, I was finally going to use it.
I sat and began to dig, making mounds and troughs. With the spade I placed dirt upon the sieve and sifted it through the mesh. Rocks and root debris remained on top as the clumps of dirt disintegrated. The dry topsoil became mixed with the moist loamy soil beneath; changing to a deep brown. Humus.
The rest of my household remained asleep as I methodically worked through late morning. The only sounds to be heard were the chirping of birds, the rustle of leaves in the dry wind and the occasional whipping of my outdoor flag. Ironically, most weekends I long to be outdoors but am usually tied to my computer catching up on personal email or something PTA related. Busywork. To-do lists that need to be done.
But as I sifted through dirt I noted the thoughts in my mind were also shifting; transitioning. At my neighbor’s suggestion I had grabbed a towel to kneel on. I was arriving at something important and I only figured it out as I tiredly adjusted my position.
I didn’t need to purchase anything new to self-motivate to garden.
The to-do lists could wait. The picture organizing, the files and endless emails. The heaping mound of laundry from work; as well as home.
The only thing I needed to do was carve out time. Most people carve out time to do important things and this plantar is a low priority.
But I’m discovering that what’s really important in my life, right now, is to carve out time for myself. I always try to make time for others, doing things that need to get done. But rare are the moments where I have time just for me.
This does take some sacrifice. To fit exercise into my days I awake before the sun and work-out in the pre-dawn. The endorphin high feels great but it is the mental time that is priceless. It has become routine; a necessity. It is time I can call my very own.
Three and a half hours later the weeds and roots became aerated black gold. Farmers leave land fallow to allow the soil to rest and restore its nutrients to become more fertile. I have been complacent in recent years. I am hoping that with my shifting thoughts I can restore my foundation. To become renewed. To grow.
The last time I really dug my hands into the Earth was in 2010 when our backyard fence was replaced. We had dug up the old plants and started new. Tiny dwarf trees were planted and we watered and weeded consistently. Some trees sent out long shoots; others remained stunted. I didn’t have the heart to pull out these sad, bare looking sticks jutting out of the ground. I continued to water them.
And life got in the way. Transitions. Marriage. Health. Kids. Work. Finances. A drip system was installed but I had severed a pipe in my digging. But still the trees stood; continuing to slowly grow. My lack of gardening mirrored my life. I had grown tired and could barely think from one day to the next. I didn’t want to put down roots. The weeds grew tall.
Because the one way I had learned to move from place-to-place, as a military wife, was to claim my space. I always found a Catholic church; longing for the rituals. The familiarity of the mass is something I know; somewhere I belong. And I always planted herbs in a container garden. As I waited for job offers I cultivated my herbs; reminded of my childhood. My mother always grew wildflowers and rose bushes; my father vegetables. These were my routines and they sustained me. It reminded me of where I came from. My roots.
When we bought our first home we immediately began to garden. We put down our roots. I transplanted a calla lily from my own mother’s yard and it blossomed. I continued to do this when we moved to our second home. And our third. When we moved away and returned I brought a succulent from our rental and it thrives in its container; reminding me of that time in our lives. The trumpet vine was transplanted from my late cousin’s yard The rhododendron and azaleas from another cousin. The large fronds from my in-laws. The green thumbs come from both of our families.
But in recent years I have been unsettled. It is only now, as I sift through dirt, that I realize this. I fill my bucket with rocks and I stagger to my trash bins; heavy. My gloved hands are cramped.
I made my way toward the back; sitting in the shade. It was then that I noticed the trees in our backyard. I haven’t, truly, looked at them in ages.
The “dwarf” lemon tree is tall; its branches full of flowers.
The avocados beckon from the lone branch from my neighbors’ yard. It is laden with the wrinkled skin of Haas. My neighbor had apologized for the large branch crossing our fence line and said they would cut it; allowing us to partake of its bounty. And partake I did.
But most astonishing was our plum tree; the sad bare trunk I never had the heart to pull. This tree never grew and it is only in this past fall and winter that it has finally taken root. There are plenty of green orbs upon its branches. It is this that makes me smile.
I am grateful. The roots are deep.